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What is GBRMPA doing?

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The GBRMPA is involved with research aimed at identifying the effects of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef.

Climate change is a global phenomenon that is beyond the scope of the GBRMPA to manage directly. Nevertheless, the GBRMPA is committed to ensuring that the uncertainties concerning the effects of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef are resolved. To this end, the GBRMPA is involved in collaborative research projects with NOAA  (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in the United States and the AIMS to monitor sea temperatures and coral bleaching. GBRMPA has developed a coral bleaching response program so that if coral bleaching occurs, the extent and severity of the bleaching can be catalogued using standardised methods. This is a critical step in raising awareness about the impacts of climate change on coral reefs and in promoting international efforts to address the issue. The GBRMPA also supports a number of research projects on coral bleaching.

While the GBRMPA is unable to directly address global climate change, it is committed to ensuring that coral reef resilience is not degraded by human activities. Pressure from terrestrial run-off, over-fishing and losses in biodiversity will affect the ability of coral reefs to cope with stress from coral bleaching. By minimising these pressures through the Representative Areas Program, the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan and various fisheries plans, the GBRMPA aims to ensure that coral reefs are relieved from other pressures when coping with coral bleaching, giving them a better chance of surviving and recovering from these events.

The Representative Areas Program will help to ensure the ecological viability of coral reefs by protecting adjacent habitats that are critical to the ecological functioning of coral reefs in a network of protected areas. The network of protected areas will protect biodiversity, maintain ecosystem function and preserve interconnectivity both within and between coral reefs and these habitats.

New fisheries plans and the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan will be instrumental in reducing the impacts of factors such as fishing and sediment run-off on the Great Barrier Reef. These plans will help to relieve coral reefs from additional pressures when coping with climate change, and are vital management responses to complement the Representative Areas Program.

Coral reefs are subjected to various pressures from tourism and development activities. The impacts of these activities are managed on a case-by-case basis through permits and environmental management and monitoring.

Summary
  • The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area has a highly diverse coral fauna which varies in composition from inshore to offshore.
  • Climate change and increased frequency and intensity of coral bleaching pose significant risks to the Great Barrier Reef. The GBRMPA is involved in research to find out what the likely effects of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef will be, and to ensure that the Reef's ability to cope with climate change is not degraded by additional human pressures.